Down are on their way to Croker

TG4 All-Ireland Junior Football Championship
Down 1-9
 Carlow 0-8

By Daire Walsh

A LATE goal from Orla Swail proved pivotal at Parnell Park on Sunday as Down saw off a spirited challenge from Carlow to book their place in the TG4 All-Ireland Junior Football Championship decider.

Having suffered relegation from the intermediate grade last year, 2000 JFC winners Down will now have a golden opportunity to secure an automatic return to the second-tier in a fortnight’s time when they face Limerick at Croke Park.

Playing in their third consecutive semi-final at this level, Carlow enjoyed an excellent start as Edel Hayden and Sinead Hayden both kicked impressive points inside the opening three minutes. The Mourne women eventually settled into the contest, however, with the full-forward line of Eimear Fitzpatrick, Natasha Ferris (free) and Aimee O’Higgins all finding the range to squeeze their side in front.

Ferris and Bredagh’s Laoise Duffy subsequently raised white flags to extend the Down lead, before Rachel Sawyer finally responded with a point for Carlow on the first-quarter mark. Yet Ferris was posing a constant threat to the Leinster outfit’s defence and the Bryansford ace kicked another fine score from play on 19 minutes.

Talented dual player Sawyer did register her second point towards the end of the half, but Down nevertheless brought a 0-6 to 0-4 cushion into the interval.

While another contribution by Sawyer reduced the gap to a bare minimum on the resumption, Aoife Brogan eased Down’s nerves with an outstanding point at an awkward right-hand angle. The industrious Fitzpatrick and Sawyer traded scores in advance of a pointed free from Carlow centre-forward Cliodhna Ni She to leave Peter Lynch’s Ulster side a point to the good at 0-8 to 0-7 moving into the final-quarter.

Ni She found the net for Carlow off another free on 50 minutes but — much to the relief of the travelling Down faithful — it was ultimately disallowed after referee Justin Murphy consulted with his umpires.

This game was still delicately balanced at this stage, before Down pounced for the decisive score of the tie with four minutes remaining. Although their skipper Meghan Doherty was in the sin-bin, substitute Swail fired home from a right-hand angle for the only goal of the game.

Sara Doyle did reduce the deficit to three at the opposing end, only for Duffy to seal victory for Down with a well-worked point.

N Ferris 0-3 (1f), O Swail 1-0, L Duffy, E Fitzpatrick 0-2 each, A Brogan, A O’Higgins 0-1 each.

Carlow: R Sawyer 0-4, C Ni She (f), E Hayden, S Doyle, S Hayden 0-1 each.

DOWN: A McGivern; A Greene, P Smyth, O Boyle; N McKibbin, M Doherty, O Duffy; C Mulvenna, A Brogan; N Scullion, V McCormack, L Duffy; E Fitzpatrick, N Ferris, A O’Higgins.
Subs: A Cull for O’Higgins (45), O Swail for Fitzpatrick (47), K McKay for Mulvenna (49), E Martin for Ferris (57).

CARLOW: N Hanley; A Carroll, A Roche, S McCullagh; R Bermingham, N Murphy, N Forde; E Hayden, R Bailey; R Sawyer, C Ni She, S Doyle; E Molloy, E Coogan, S Hayden.
Subs: C Jordan for Coogan (35), E Ware for Molloy (41), A O’Donoghue for S Hayden (45), E Treacy for Forde (59), K Collins for Sawyer (62).

 Referee: Justin Murphy (Cork).


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